A little over a year ago, fast-food giant Burger King executed an ingenious marketing campaign targeted at their #1 competitor, McDonald’s.
Use geolocation data and a jaw-dropping price point ($0.01 for a Whopper) to incentivize consumers within 600 feet of a MickyD’s to avoid the golden arches and head to their nearest BK instead.
Steal business from McDonald’s and maximize the number of downloads for the newly relaunched Burger King app.
Did it work?
Heck yes. In just a handful of days, Burger King drove more than 1 million downloads of their app—and each of those downloads matter to “The King’s” bottom line.
Why are apps and smartphones so important to QSRs like Burger King?
1. It’s a volume play.
250 million Americans own smartphones, and each of those devices represents a possible QSR mobile order every single day.
2. Mobile reduces operational costs while enhancing the customer experience.
A QSR that increases mobile ordering can hire fewer in-restaurant staff and reduce in-restaurant crowding at the same time.
3. But the most important outcome that can be derived from the continuing adoption of apps, mobile marketing, and other technologies by QSRs is a better understanding of the consumer at an individual level.
Where consumers could once order a meal at their favorite QSR with relative anonymity, ordering through a mobile app makes it possible for companies like Burger King and McDonald’s to gain previously unattainable insight into individual behavior as opposed to herd behavior—what specific people order, when they order, where they order, what kind of payment method they prefer to use, etc. It is a level of granular insight that makes it possible for QSRs to better recognize, value, manage, and capitalize on 1-to-1 relationships.
Of course, it’s not just the QSRs that benefit—consumers win too.
QSR apps and mobile ordering maximize value (personalized promotions, coupons, etc.) and efficiency (order anywhere, avoid lines, etc.) for busy consumers.
As an example of consumer benefit, just look at what Starbucks does with mobile ordering. Not only does the coffee titan give users of the Starbucks app special promotions, but it also makes it easier for coffee drinkers to skip long lines at peak times. Commuters can order before they walk out of the house, and pick up their favorite beverage on their way into the office—no waiting to place an order, and no waiting for that order to be filled…just grab and go.
The power of personalization and pattern recognition
Having a QSR cashier make a real-time decision on how best to greet a customer is one thing—having that same cashier know which menu item to suggest as part of an upsell (e.g. “Would you like fries with that?”) or what kind of promotion (e.g. Dunkin’s Free Donut Fridays) will appeal to a customer is something else entirely…
It’s an impossibility.
But when customers order through a mobile application?
Well, the impossible becomes possible. Mobile ordering allows for data collection at the individual level, and that data enables personalization.
Personalization is important for every business, including QSRs. 59% of consumers say personalization plays a major role in shaping their buying decisions, and industry experts believe that influence can drive a 30% uplift in revenue and retention.
Personalization is a consequence of pattern recognition, which is why if the algorithms behind QSR apps could talk, they would all say the same thing:
Consumers are creatures of habit.
Understanding what menu item an individual customer is most likely to buy, when they’re most likely to buy it, which restaurant location they’re most likely to visit, and how frequent those visits will be, allows for the creation of marketing that more effectively capitalizes on entrenched behavior. (It allows QSRs to make critical operational optimizations that lead to a better end-to-end customer experience—shorter food preparation times, menu item availability, etc.)
The ends will justify the means
Pushing more and more consumers to adopt mobile ordering won’t be easy, even in the wake of Coronavirus. But the QSRs willing to put in the work today stand to gain a windfall in long-term value. As they collect more data and use that data to paint a clearer picture of individual customers, it will become progressively easier to save on overhead, improve efficiency, maximize sales, and increase brand loyalty.